Shepherd’s Pie was one of the first few things I learned to cook. Unfortunately, I also learned to cook it all wrong and didn’t realize that it was supposed to be a meat sauce rather than a tomato-riddled marinara-thon until some time in college. In fact, it was really a kind of jarred tomato sauce with ground beef that happened to be topped with mashed potato. Still, I tried! Once I’d figured out that I needed more gravy and no tomatoes, my signature little twist on it because adding a couple of parsnips to the mashed potato topping. It added a little sweetness and made the potatoes a little less mundane. Admittedly, this was also before I discovered how to really season a dish with something other than salt or pepper. You probably wouldn’t have wanted to eat at my place back then. Ah, college cooking! Never fear, this upside down cottage pie will avoid all those former pitfalls!
It was thinking back to my Shephard-ing shenanigans which reminded me to introduce Mr Meatified to the parsnip. He’d never knowingly eaten one! Since that turned out a success (pro tip: introduce each vegetable as a “fry” for easy winning) I decided to make an attempt on a Paleo-ized version of my former favorite. So this time, instead of adding in a stray parsnip or two, I made the entire “mash” component out of parsnips. Now, convincing the Mr to eat lamb is currently not going so well, so this one is made with beef, which makes it more akin to Cottage pie. Even better, I decided to skip the whole “arrange meat and potato topping in a dish and bake it” step for time. This upside down cottage pie version turned out just as satisfying and warming as the baked version. Plus, this means you could turn one of these out on a weeknight, too, if you were so inclined.
This is a nicely forgiving two pan meal: if one part is done before the other, it really doesn’t matter too much. If the parsnips finish up first, just drain them and leave them sitting in a covered pan while the beef catches up. If the meat is ready, just turn it down to low, cover it up and wait for the parsnips! You can peel and chop the parsnips up into chunks and boil them like that, but they’ll take a little longer to soften enough in the middle to mash that way. If you want to speed things up a little, cut out the cores before boiling.
- Peel and chop parsnips and place in pan of water. If uncored, put on the heat to boil now; if cored, put aside for now and begin to boil once meat has browned later.
- In a large skillet, brown the beef and set aside for now.
- Add the onions to the pan and use a splash of beef stock to deglaze. Heat until the onions begin to soften. If the pan begins to dry out, cover for a few minutes until the onions are ready.
- Put the mushrooms into the pan and saute until they begin to brown and sweat out any excess moisture.
- Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle the arrowroot powder evenly across the beef; stir through until no longer visible.
- Add the tomato paste and cook through for a minute before adding the herbs and stock.
- Bring up to an almost boil then lower the heat to a simmer.
- The beef will need about 15 minutes to come together; while this is happening, drain the parsnips.
- Pulse the parsnips in a food processor roughly then add coconut milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches a fluffy consistency. Add black pepper to taste.
- Serve the beef sauce on top of the parsnip mash.
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